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MIL@SF: Giants plate seven runs in 7th inning

SAN FRANCISCO -- The calendar is about to turn to September, but it's beginning to feel a lot like April and May again along the shores of McCovey Cove.

The Giants completed a three-game sweep of the Brewers with a 15-5 victory at AT&T Park on Sunday afternoon. With the win, the Giants maintained a one-game lead for home-field advantage as the National League's first Wild Card and kept pace with the Dodgers, whom they trail by 2 1/2 games in the NL West.

After a horrid home record in June and July helped the Giants tumble from atop the Major League standings, they have returned to their usual winning ways at home, where they've won 10 of their last 13 games. The 15 runs were a season high, they totaled 10 extra-base hits for the first time in a game at AT&T Park, and the win was their sixth consecutive, which tied their longest streak of the season. The throttling provided quite the exclamation point at the end of the Giants' dominant "We're Baaack" 6-1 homestand, which was a true all-around team effort.

The offense broke out for 44 runs. The Giants' 46 hits in the Milwaukee series were the second-most they've recorded in a three-game set at AT&T Park. The starting pitching was nearly flawless, as the starters combined to allow just six earned runs in 50 2/3 innings on the homestand. Just as importantly, the defense was airtight, highlighted by outstanding play from Gregor Blanco, Brandon Crawford and Pablo Sandoval.

"I was just waiting for this final click when the pitching and the hitting matches up," said Andrew Susac, who went 3-for-5 with three RBIs on Sunday. "It's something special what we just put up on the board against a first-place team over there.

"They're no slouches. We faced three quality arms and hit them pretty good."

Sunday's victim was Kyle Lohse, who was chased from the game after surrendering seven earned runs in 5 2/3 innings.

So, in a chicken-or-egg type quandary, has the Giants' offense fed off the pitching, or vice versa?

"It's just that constant merry-go-around," Susac said. "You get back in the dugout quick with good pitching; the hitters are confident and not spending a lot of energy standing out there on defense. It just shows you what confidence can do throughout our lineup.

"You have off days, and you have really good days like today. Right now there is a lot of confidence in this locker room."

Despite the injuries, despite the starting pitching problems, and despite the stagnant lineup that all took turns plaguing the Giants during the team's summer-long slide from grace to second place, manager Bruce Bochy's optimistic outlook endured.

"You got to stay optimistic; there's no point in going the other way," Bochy said Sunday. "There were a lot of games left and we're a good club. You've got to think you're going to come out of it."

The emergence of second baseman Joe Panik had a lot to do with the team's emphatic return to October contender status. The rookie chipped in two RBIs on Sunday and finished August with a .379 average, one home run and 10 RBIs.

His breakout month has allowed the Giants to "keep the line moving," as Bochy likes to say. With Panik in the two-hole and Hunter Pence (who went 4-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to 13 games Sunday) batting fifth, the offensive attack has deepened with Michael Morse batting sixth and a more-confident Gregor Blanco batting seventh. A viable option like Susac (whose average jumped to .267 on Sunday) off the bench to keep Buster Posey fresh doesn't hurt, either. Nor does the excellent pitching.

"All of them, right on. They did such a tremendous job," Bochy said of the staff's last seven starts. "We go as our pitching goes, and our guys did a really good job of keeping guys off base, hitting their spots and following the gameplans."

Madison Bumgarner began the six-game win streak when he flirted with perfection in his last start. A first-inning run nixed chances at a repeat performance Sunday, but he settled in and gave up just the one run on five hits while striking out seven in six innings en route to earning the win.

On the biggest offensive outburst of the season, Sandoval stood out most. He finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs scored. He batted twice in the seventh a double shy of the cycle, but was walked and flied out. That was just about the only thing the Giants didn't accomplish on this homestand.

"We stand a really good chance, still being in the division race and the Wild Card, too. I like where we're at," Bumgarner said. "We've turned it on, and it's a good time of year to turn it on. Everybody's starting to come together.

"It's what we have to do to be a winning team. We've got a lot of guys here who know how to win and have done it before, and I feel like we're starting to play our best baseball of the year."

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